The Tower, The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware
The team was settled around the table for the tenth meeting in a week.
Miss Parker finished giving her latest update on the progress of the
newest security installations, supplemented by the information she had
uncovered about the abduction of the children, and sat down as the Chairman
"We're no closer to finding who took the children," the Chairman
admitted grudgingly. "So we feel the need to increase our security.
For this reason, the other two Directors and I have decided that the
heads of the security teams in Germany and South Africa should meet
here for a series of discussions tomorrow and the day after. We're hoping
to create a blanket security system that will be more widely effective,
using all of our combined resources."
Miss Parker looked up sharply, noticing that the man commonly recognized
as her father was refusing to meet her eye. Morgan wasn't surprised.
The meeting had been her idea, and hers alone, and the Chairman had
been so pleased that he had vowed to acknowledge her when announcing
it. It was yet another unkept promise, and lately she had been grinding
his nose in them, metaphorically speaking, of course. His uncomfortable
demeanor suggested that he was aware another such situation would soon
Before Mr. Parker could continue to speak, however, the air of concentration
in the room was disrupted by the sound of a loud siren. Morgan leapt
to her feet. Without waiting for dismissal, she left the room and ran
down the several flights of stairs to SIS, bursting in as Broots was
leaving to find her.
"What's going on?"
"The motion detectors in the vents on SL-17 have picked up something,
Miss Parker," one of the men hunched over a computer told her,
his screen showing the movement as the figure scurried along the passageways,
obviously disoriented by the lights that were illuminating the formerly
dark tunnels. Miss Parker recognized the form instantly.
"Angelo," she muttered. Turning, she found Sam waiting at
"Get him out of there," she ordered. "But there's no
need to be rough about it. And," Morgan added to the room at large,
"let's get these sirens turned off before they send us all around
The silence that followed this was almost stunning, and she turned
to see Sydney standing in the doorway, just as she had been about to
send Broots to look for him.
"Come to my office," she ordered. "We have to work this
* * * * * * * * *
Miss Parker's Office, SIS
"We can't keep Angelo away from there," Sydney explained.
"I've been trying, but, as soon as he's unsupervised, it's the
place he heads for." The psychiatrist surreptitiously eyed the
man who sat opposite. "It's almost as if he had some connection
to the children."
"How long has this been going on?" Mr. Parker growled, ignoring
the last point, his hand tapping impatiently on the folder that contained
the results of the interrupted meeting.
"As long as the children have been here," the woman responded
succinctly. "There's footage on DSAs that show Angelo has been
sneaking into the nursery at all hours since the children first came
"So what are we going to do about it?" the Chairman snapped.
"That's the third alarm he's set off since we began sealing the
"That is the place he feels most comfortable," Sydney replied,
aware that the question had been directed at him. "I've been wondering
if it's possible to set aside part of it, unmonitored, so that
"It's not possible," Miss Parker interrupted. "That
system was set up to cover the entire area. We can't shut it off without
closing the whole network down for an hour or more, and that would expose
us to the threat of losing more projects."
Mr. Parker nodded firmly. "That's a good point, Angel."
The woman glanced away, supposedly to look through a folder she held,
while the Chairman turned back to the psychiatrist.
"Isn't there any other way to keep him to the rooms we assigned
"Short of guarding him around the clock," Sydney proposed,
"the only other option I came up with is for Angelo to be allowed
access to those rooms while they're empty. His aim seems to be to get
near them, and if he was inside, he might be less likely to find a way
into the vents and set off the alarm."
Mr. Parker looked doubtful. Sydney paused for a moment before continuing.
"There's also the possibility that, if he spends time in the rooms
where the children were and is allowed access to the toys and games
they used, he may be able to empath enough of their senses to find out
where they are."
The Chairman's expression of doubt faded to one of interest. "You
think it's possible?"
"We've never fully understood Angelo's capabilities, Mr. Parker,"
Sydney told him firmly. "The time I've been working with him has
convinced me that he has skills we haven't even started to consider.
Who knows what he might be capable of, if he was allowed to do what
he wanted rather than what somebody else wants?"
As the psychiatrist finished this rhetorical question, Miss Parker
jumped in, forcing a note of eagerness into her voice. "If we did,
that might be the closest we've come yet to finding my brother, Daddy!
You can't deny us the chance to find out if it works! Please!"
* * * * * * * * *
Miss Parker closed the door behind the Chairman and turned to where
Sydney had remained seated opposite her desk. The woman's eyes wandered
over to where the empath lay, curled up in the corner of her office,
gradually getting over his ordeal, and then traveled back to the psychiatrist.
"What was that all about?"
"Making Angelo happy," Sydney told her firmly.
She sat down behind her desk, eyeing him. "Do you really think
he could work that out?"
The psychiatrist shrugged. "It's possible. What isn't likely,
however, is that Angelo will be able to tell anyone he meets anything
he might have empathed."
Miss Parker raised an eyebrow. "As long as you can stop him wandering
all over the Centre, we'll be the only people he 'meets.'"
Sydney nodded slightly, his eyes twinkling. "I know."
Her lips slowly curled into a smile and Morgan was unable to suppress
a chuckle. "Well, then, I suppose you'd better start acclimating
Angelo to his new quarters."
The psychiatrist stood up immediately, taking firm hold of his cane.
"At once, Miss Parker."
* * * * * * * * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
The man looked up as the sweeper appeared in the doorway. "What
"There was a reported sighting on the woman you asked me to keep
an eye out for, sir."
"Good." Lyle took the folder and glanced through it before
looking up again. "Would you ask Valentine to come here?"
"Of course, Mr. Lyle." Charles left the office as Lyle began
reading the report that an office in Virginia had spotted the woman.
"You wanted something, Boss?" Valentine strolled into the
office and sat down in a chair on the other side of the desk.
"Her." Lyle tossed the photo across the desk. "Did you
read the report about the last time we got close?"
"And Jarod jumped in and saved her, again," Valentine grinned.
"I want you to go down and take care of it."
"You know," the sweeper commented thoughtfully, "considering
her heritage -- Jarod's sister and all -- I really don't understand
why you just want to wipe her off the map. Why not get her in here?
For all we know, she could have the same skills as her brothers."
"It wasn't my choice." Lyle shrugged. "Raines wanted
her taken care of -- "
"Why?" Valentine interrupted.
"Somehow, she found out about Mirage," the other man responded.
"And, after Dad found out about what had happened, he backed the
"So you tossed her out a window," Valentine finished with
a grin. "Didn't seem to work, did it?"
"That's why I'm relying on you to get it right this time."
Valentine leaned on the desk, his eyes gleaming. "I have a better
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod lifted the last case out of the plane and carried it over to
a trolley that waited nearby, thankfully lowering it onto the flat surface.
Straightening his back with an exaggerated groan, he then grinned as
Ramona walked over, rolling her eyes and wrapping her arms more firmly
around the folder of progress notes on the new venture Pele was setting
up in that town.
"Wimp," the woman teased. "Maybe I should have done
"I could have been waiting all night," he joked. "But
that's everything. If you could just get it taken up to my room, I'll
sort it when I get back."
"That's tomorrow, right?" she asked.
"Yeah. I'm meeting my sister for dinner tonight," he told
her. "We haven't seen each other for a while, so this'll be good."
"I'm sure it will." She nodded at the two bags that stood
off to one side. "You taking those with you?"
"Uh huh." He picked up the DSA player and his duffel bag.
"Creature of habit," she remarked somewhat ironically. "Okay,
we'll see you back in Dallas in the morning."
Jarod let her push the trolley towards the large plane that waited
on the tarmac a relatively short distance away and walked towards the
small building that constituted the airport. He was tired, having had
to wait for a low-pressure system over Barrow to move so that he could
go and collect the last few things that had been left after his father
and son had come down to Texas. The weather had only cleared late the
night before, so he had flown up immediately and, as a result, wanted
to sleep before he met Emily for dinner. He knew that she worried about
him, just as he was anxious about her, and didn't want to give her unnecessary
cause for concern.
He hired a car and drove to a hotel that Ramona had suggested to him,
booking a room for the night and making his way to it. Once there, he
stretched out on the bed, hoping that his recent nights of more peaceful
sleep would continue.
* * * * * * * * *
3 Kennedy Avenue
Blue Cove, Delaware
Cox stalked up the stairs from the basement and halted at the top,
turning to glare down into the darkness.
"That had better be finished by the time I get home," he
spat. "You've wasted an entire night and come up with nothing to
show for it! If it isn't done, you won't get any food until it is."
He turned away, but looked back sharply at a soft, almost indistinguishable
"And stop that damned crying," he growled softly, slamming
the door so hard that the window shook, before firmly turning the key.
Yanking it out of the lock, Cox hung it on a hook beside the door and
checked that everything was secure.
Picking up a briefcase that lay on the kitchen table, he pulled his
cell phone out of his pocket and activated it as he left the house.
"Alex? It's me. Don't worry about coming around today. He doesn't
deserve you to."
Obviously the man on the other end demurred, because Cox slammed the
door of the house as loudly as he had shut the cellar door, punching
a code into a box beside the door.
"No, he doesn't! I said no and I mean it!"
Disconnecting the call, he unlocked the car and opened the driving
door. Throwing the case onto the passenger seat, he slid the cell phone
into his pocket, straightened his tie and then got into the vehicle,
starting it up and driving away.
* * * * * * * * *
Trevor poked his head into the room where Elizabeth was just getting
out of bed.
"Good almost-afternoon, sleepyhead."
"Hey, I'm up early," she protested indignantly as she seized
a gown to preserve her modesty. "And I could be just as insulting
about the things you dreamt last night, but won't, because I'm so nice."
"I think that's questionable," the man teased as he strolled
"You know, polite people knock."
"I didn't want to wake you if you were still asleep."
"Well, I'm awake now, so shoo."
Trevor looked hurt as he sat on the end of the bed. "And I thought
you liked me."
"We've gone into this debate several times, and I always come
out of it badly," Elizabeth told him. "So I'm not even going
"Don't you even want to know what I want?"
"Going by what I saw in your head last night, no, not really."
The man raised an eyebrow. "I think that's cheating."
"Oh, and you don't, poking into a poor, innocent Australian girl's
mind as she walks past you on the street?"
"Okay, so maybe I do." Trevor suddenly remembered in painful
clarity a dream he'd enjoyed the night before, and, hoping devoutly
she hadn't been paying attention at the time, changed the subject. "Anyway,
the reason I'm here
"Apart from making my life a misery," she interrupted.
"Well, you look very un-miserable, but I'm sure it's deep inside
somewhere." He grinned for a moment before becoming serious. "Did
you know Faith's sick?"
"I knew she was heading for it," Elizabeth admitted. "She
was pretty feverish last night, but wouldn't let me call anyone."
"Cam called one of the doctors to her this morning, but he won't
let her get up to take care of Angelique, and we don't want the kids
exposed to infections anyway, because we don't know how they would react
to illness, so we were wondering
"Would you get to the point?" she snapped, becoming exasperated
as the air-conditioning kicked in and a draught blew into the room,
making her shiver slightly.
"Sebastian wants you to look after her today," Trevor finished,
somewhat startlingly as far as the woman was concerned.
The man's dark eyes twinkled. "Why not?"
"I don't take care of kids! Especially not those kids. I feel
like someone from the Stone Age in comparison to their knowledge."
"Hey, nobody's asking you to teach them advanced physics. All
you have to do is play with her."
"I haven't had anything to do with them."
"So this is a good time to start."
"Why can't you do it? Or Cam? He's good with the kids."
"She's always had a woman, and it's important that she have some
"What's wrong with Sumi
or Ramona? And how about Nancy?
That is her job, after all."
"Ramona has meetings for most of the day, and Sumi's helping to
take care of Faith." Trevor shot her a disapproving look. "And
you should know Nancy is off at that training course. She left last
night, before Faith got sick."
Elizabeth hid under the covers. "I'm sorry," she wailed in
a muffled voice. "Forgive me for that terrible lapse of memory,
beloved master, even though you've just thrown the equivalent of a mental
lump of cement at my brain!"
Grinning, he pulled back the blanket. "Funny. Not hilarious, but
"Eh, I try," she shrugged, before remembering their former
topic of conversation and looking up at him, pleading with her eyes.
"And there's not a single other woman
"None," Trevor interrupted firmly. "It won't kill you,
for one day, and you might discover that you even like it."
"Pigs," she snorted, and the man looked startled.
"I beg your pardon."
"Pigs might fly," she told him. "But, as I don't appear
to have a choice, would you kindly leave me in peace so that I can at
least be decently dressed rather than appearing in my pajamas and dressing
"You might want to try it." Trevor grinned and dimples appeared
in his cheeks as he headed for the door. "It's kind of fetching."
* * * * * * * * *
The room was stuffy and hot, despite the cold air that blew through
the cracks in the windows and caused him to shiver whenever it touched
him. His work created sour smells that almost made him retch, but he
swallowed the urge, squinting at the tiny writing with eyes that longed
to close. It was incredibly tempting to rub them, to ease away the soreness,
but he knew what punishment would follow, so he kept his hands by his
The light streamed down onto the table, beakers and test tubes gathered
in a pile on the flat surface with sheets of paper scattered around
them. He reached out for the tube, tentatively removing it from the
Bunsen burner where it was heating and about to pour it into another
beaker when he felt a sharp slap to the back of his head.
"Idiot," a voice snarled. "Don't be stupid, Echo."
Tears stung his eyes, but he lowered his head and looked back at
the writing as it danced on the page in front of him. Correcting his
earlier mistake, he completed the process and then turned to look up
into the dark shape that stood behind him.
"That's it, sir."
"I should hope so," the man snapped, reaching out to snatch
the vial that the trembling hand offered. "We've wasted enough
time as it is." A pale hand pointed through the darkness to the
blackest corner of the room. "Now get back where you belong!"
* * * * * * * * *
Blue Cove, Delaware
"You've tried getting to Jarod before by killing the people he
cares about," Valentine began, sitting back in his chair. "It
didn't do a lot of good. It doesn't leave him anything to work for --
or for us to tempt him with."
"You're suggesting abduction," Lyle interrupted. "We've
tried that one, too. It didn't work when we took Zoe either."
"But look at what you were working with," the sweeper stated
patronizingly. "Four sweepers and the two of you, so Jarod's father
could take you completely by surprise. This time we'll be ready."
"So what do we do when we get her?"
"We wait for Jarod's reaction," Valentine told him, his eyes
sparkling with anticipation. "If we don't get the response we want,
then we can do what we like with her."
Lyle quickly reread through the single page report that he had received,
a smile beginning to curl the corners of his mouth as he considered
the situation. After a silence of several minutes he looked up.
"All right. Let's do it."
* * * * * * * * *
Sebastian strolled over to Elizabeth as she appeared in the doorway,
trying to hide his feeling of amusement at the nervous look on her face.
"I'm never going to forgive you for this," she growled softly.
"Promises, promises." He slid an arm around her shoulders.
"Look, Elizabeth, it's only for one day. I hope. And if you show
that sort of emotion to Angelique, she'll pick up on it right away."
"What emotion?" She shrugged. "I doubt she'll pick up
The man arched an eyebrow, watching her wander over to a table where
several children sat painting, casting surreptitious glances at the
little girl who sat on the floor nearby, cradling her doll. By degrees,
Elizabeth moved over until she was sitting a short distance away.
"Where's Mommy?" Angelique asked plaintively.
"Your Mommy's not feeling very well," the woman explained
gently. "She'll stay in bed today, and maybe she'll feel better
tomorrow. And Nancy will be back this afternoon."
"Who are you?" she demanded after a moment.
"I'm Elizabeth," the woman smiled. "What would you like
to do?" Picking up a book, she held it out to the child. "Shall
we read this? You enjoy it, don't you?"
The girl's large, blue eyes examined her for a moment, a small cleft
appearing on the girl's forehead as something clearly puzzled her. Elizabeth
put the book down and turned candid eyes to the child.
"What is it, Angelique? What's wrong?"
"Lizbet is flat."
"I'm sorry," she said softly. "But I don't understand."
Angelique took a firmer hold of the doll, her eyes revealing her confusion.
"People make noise. Jawid said so. But you hide."
"You mean that you can't feel my emotions," the woman clarified
after a second of thought. "I guess that's true, although I hadn't
though about it before."
The girl's head tilted to one side. "How come?"
Elizabeth had to laugh. This was the reason she hadn't wanted to work
with these children: a definite difficulty in answering their questions.
Still, she tried to come up with an explanation that would be both plausible
and comprehensible. In resettling herself, the woman moved a little
closer to the girl, but Angelique remained where she was. Encouraged,
Elizabeth began to speak.
"You know at night, when you close your eyes, and your mind gives
The child nodded slowly.
"When I was a very little girl, I used to see pictures in other
people's heads, called dreams. When I saw them, I knew what they'd feel
when they dreamt them. So I learnt how to push away all of the bad dreams
until they didn't feel those things and hurt people anymore."
The girl's eyes bore an expression of curiosity. "Dreams are real?"
"Not like you and me," Elizabeth admitted. "But they
can hurt people, like feelings hurt you, so I lock them up inside me."
She placed a hand on her chest. "But I don't want the feelings
to hurt me either, so I push them down inside. They lie on top of what
I feel and so my feelings don't come out."
"What you feel?"
The woman's eyes glowed with anticipation. "Do you want to see
Angelique flinched away immediately, her eyes widening with fear, shaking
"It won't hurt," the woman promised. "Maybe you'll even
The child hugged her doll tightly, considering. There were faint whispers
from this person and they didn't hurt. But Angelique was scared of what
the whole person might be like. Slowly, as the girl pressed back against
the wall, Elizabeth pushed aside the emotions that weighed her down
during so much of the day.
Angelique felt the emotion brush against her, light as a feather, and
sensed laughter, fun, the same emotions that the other Seraphim had
radiated for the first few days at their new home and continued to do
on occasion. Gradually, a smile formed on the child's face, curling
the corners of her mouth as she felt the echoes of giggling, a merriment
that the woman opposite her was sometimes unable to suppress. This feeling
was nice. It didn't hurt, and Angelique's eyes pleaded with the woman
to show more.
Elizabeth felt the weight crushing down on her again. That was the
problem with living here, spending so much of her energy absorbing worse
dreams than she had imagined could exist. It was a burden she carried
around, and she had never found a way of getting rid of it, much as
she often longed to. Feeling almost breathless, Elizabeth leaned back
against the wall and briefly closed her eyes.
There was a small rustle and then Angelique was sitting in the woman's
lap with the book in her hand. Elizabeth opened her eyes, instinctively
wrapping her arms around the girl, and took the book, opening it at
the first page and resting her chin gently on the small child's head
as she began to read.
* * * * * * * * *
Jarod slipped a disk into the DSA player and quickly scanned through
it, glaring at the images that flashed before his eyes. With a frustrated
shake of his head, he yanked the disc out and dropped it onto the bed,
glancing at the silver circles that already decorated the bedspread
before pulling another disk out of the rack and sliding it in. After
several minutes of silence, the same act was repeated, but he held this
DSA in his hand, glaring down at it, as the sharp edges pressed into
"Where are you?" he muttered. "When are you?
What was I doing?"
He had woken from his nap almost an hour earlier with his heart pounding,
his breath coming raggedly, but the dream had left him with only indistinct
visions of a dark room and a long table. Knowing that the images were
too vague to call Sydney and get an answer, Jarod got off the bed, beginning
to pace the length of the room. Despite knowing the futility of such
an act, the man was still tempted to ring his mentor, just to try and
work out the source of his current nightmare.
Even as he was reaching for the cell phone that was in the pocket of
his coat, however, Jarod heard it ring and hurriedly yanked it out.
Jarod smiled, sinking back onto the bed with care for the DSAs. "Hi,
son. Everything okay?"
"I have to talk to you."
"Sure. Go ahead."
Tucking the phone under his chin, Jarod began to gather the discs together,
sorting them into order and slotting them into the racks, as Jordan
started to speak.
"I had this really weird dream last night. I was going to wait
'till you came back to tell you, 'cause I'd forgotten you were staying
overnight there, but I really want to talk about it now."
"I'm sorry, Jordan," Jarod apologized. "If I'd known
you were going to need me, I would've come back."
"It doesn't matter, I guess," the young man returned uncertainly.
"But can I tell you anyway?"
"Of course you can."
"Okay." Jordan let out a long, slow breath before beginning
to speak. "You know I've been having trouble sleeping for the last
few weeks, and you've been telling me to get more, but I was finding
it really hard. Well, last night after you left for Barrow, I decided
I'd really try, so I went to bed early and all, but I had this really
weird dream, about being at Donoterase, or the Centre, or somewhere.
I can't say where it is, exactly. All I know is, it's dark. I'm sitting
at a table and there's a sim laid out in front of me -- a whole lot
of scientific equipment. There's someone overseeing it. I can hear footsteps
behind me, but when I turn to look at whoever it is, I get the back
of my head slapped."
By this time, Jarod had stopped packing the discs away and was now
staring blankly down at the floor, his eyes wide and his mouth slightly
open. When Jordan paused, he choked out two words.
"The room smells weird too -- kind of damp, like it doesn't get
much sun and isn't aired often. When I finally finish the sim, the person
leaves and shuts the door. I can hear it being locked and I know that
my only bed is a blanket on the floor." Jordan stopped suddenly.
"Dad, I don't know what this is. It isn't me -- I'm sure of it.
I don't remember doing that."
"Nor do I," Jarod whispered faintly.
There was silence on the other end, before Jordan exploded. "But
you have to, Dad! If this isn't me then it has to be you!"
Jarod forced himself to calm down, hearing the panic in his younger
counterpart's voice, and straightened his shoulders, taking a deep breath
before he spoke, breaking into the questions that were frantically being
fired at him from the other end of the line.
"Jordan, listen to me. Whatever this is, we'll figure it out,
okay? I promise we'll work out what it is. Do you hear me?"
"Uh huh." On the other end, the boy took another audible
"Good." Jarod crossed his legs on the bed and changed the
phone to his other ear, pulling his laptop out of its satchel and switching
it on. "First, I want you to tell me whatever else you can remember
about the dream. A name, a strange word, anything."
" Jordan's voice revealed his confusion. "You've
been having them too, Dad. Why don't you know? How come you're asking
Taking another deep breath, Jarod stared hard at the floor. "They
don't seem quite the same, son. I saw the basics you did -- the room
and the equipment -- but I don't remember there being anyone else there,
nor the smells or the bed that you mentioned."
Jarod half-smiled at the boy's curiosity. "I'm afraid I don't
know that yet, Jordan. Maybe, when we know what this is about, we'll
be able to figure out the answer to that question."